The USA Baseball 18U National Team, which includes Wildomar’s Vaughn Neckar, competed in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier in La Paz and Los Cabos, Mexico, last week. Team USA finished WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier Super Round play with an 8-4 win over Nicaragua on Saturday afternoon. After completing a sweep of the Super Round, the United States was 7-0 in tournament play entering Sunday’s gold medal game against Panama.
A junior in high school, Neckar, an LSU commit who plays for Vista Murrieta during the spring, has competed in past USA Baseball development programs, mainly as a pitcher. For this past event, the Wildomar teenager got Team USA off to a great start with an 8-3 exhibition victory over Hamilton High School at Bell Bank Park in Mesa, Ariz. As closers in that game, Neckar, and Stunner Gonzales (Carlsbad) combined for seven strikeouts in the final four innings to secure the win. Neckar was the only pitcher to not permit a hit for the stars and stripes, as he allowed just one baserunner to reach via walk in two scoreless innings.
In their second game of pool play, Team USA scored six runs in the first inning en route to a 15-2 win over Puerto Rico in the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier. Neckar came out of the bullpen in the fifth to lock down the final three outs for Team USA and secure the 15-2 run-rule victory. The win moved the U.S. to 2-0 in the tournament’s opening round.
His next outing came against Panama in the final game of pool play, where he came in to relieve in the bottom of the fifth. Neckar would pick up a strikeout and had a runner get caught stealing to turn a key double play and escape the jam. With the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate for Panama in the bottom of the sixth, he got a clutch strikeout to keep Team USA in front by four. Panama drew three walks and scored on a sacrifice fly in the seventh, but Neckar’s teammate Matthew Champion recorded the final out on a fielder’s choice to finish the 5-2 victory.
While Neckar did not pitch in the gold medal game, he played a pivotal role in the games leading up to the final game, where an 11-1 victory over Panama saw Team USA win it all. It is the sixth consecutive WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier title for the 18U National Team, as the program has won gold at every tournament since 2009.
The United States was also atop the leaderboard in several offensive categories, including home runs (10) and runs scored (79). The 10-run fifth inning was the second time the stars and stripes scored nine or more runs in an inning during the tournament as they put up nine against Peru in a massive third frame during pool play. The tournament win secured a spot in next summer’s XXXI WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Tainan, Taiwan, where they aim to defend their title after winning gold at the XXX WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in September.
More information can be found online at www.usabaseball.com/team-usa/18u.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at email@example.com.